What Is The Right Way To Stand Up For Myself?

Question:

I am a workshop facilitator. Recently our civil service division had a large lay-off that has left us with only two facilitators. Both of us have been doing the same job for the same amount of time within this division. I thoroughly like my supervisor and she has called me her star performer. We appreciate each other’s ability to work together.

The other facilitor has harassed not only me in the past, but others who shared ideas with my supervisor. This facilitator knows I have observed her in trouble with my supervisor recently for other issues. Now it is only us two working together and we are to work as a team.

I enjoy my job, but feel each of us must toe the line and not jeopardize our division in any way as we may be seeing another lay-off.

Both of us facilitators were given an assignment to observe and learn how to do a new workshop involving youth. This workshop was to be conducted by the other facilitator’s cousin, a coordinator of the youth program.

When the day came, I went to assist the coordinator in taking supplies to the workshop room. I asked what I could take and I was to take one box, but the coordinator said, “It’s not nice for me to have a little person carry such a heavy box.” I have never worked with this person before. I said nothing and proceeded to the workshop room. Just a note, I am just under 5 feet. Shortly after, the coordinator apologized and I felt she was sincere. No harm done.

When the second facilitator arrived, both cousins began having a very personal family discussion. I felt uneasy and left the room for a few moments to give them space. I returned moments later and the workshop began. I soon realized the coordinator lacked information to deliver the workshop. Also, I believe it was a challenge for her to be observed by peers who have a great deal of experience. Also, to nicely allow us to be a part of the workshop. She began frequently asking our opinions during the workshop. She would ask my opinion and then say to the second facilitator “What do you think. The second facilitator would say, “Well, this is what I would do ….or “I would not do this, I would… With each question it appeared I didn’t know what I was saying and was being pitted against the other facilitator. She was long in her answers, boring and gave too much detail for this particular group. I’m not even sure if all of her information was accurate or half made up. I remained in the workshop, as I needed the information for future workshops. The youth were looking at each one of us in the workshop and was aware something was not right. I still stand by my answers and can validate my accuracy. On one occasion, the coordinator doing the workshop stated she did not agree with what I said.

I then decided I would not allow this behavior to proceed any further as it was unprofessional and pitted me against the second facilitator. The youth was observing all of this. Therefore, when asked again for my opinion, I replied “please excuse me as I was taking notes.” This happened a second time with the same comment made by myself. During the second occurrence the other facilitator laughed at me and said, “She doesn’t want to answer any more questions! Ha, Ha, Ha!” The coordinator laughed at me as well.

By the end of the workshop I was invited to give my opinion again, but this time the second facilitator was not asked to give her opinion. I answered and left the room as it was getting late, I had another engagment and the workshop was coming to an end.

The second facilitator walked by my desk and chuckled, stating the coordinator told the youth they could ask us questions before they went home, but she realized how late it was when she looked at her watch.

I would like to request a meeting with the coordinator and share my concerns. I believe as usual, upon moving to this worksite where the second facilitator has been working for the last few years that she has told this coordinator as well as others things that are not true so they will not like me upon my arrival. She has done this before in the past. I want this coordinator to get to know me and judge for herself. This person continuously has a need to know everything, take control and lead everything while embarrassing others and gossiping continuously in a malicious manner.

I must step up to the plate, but I do not want my supervisor to think I can’t handle this myself. At one time she stated I deserved a supervisor position.

This coordinator should have taken control of the workshop and not allowed this behavior.

This meeting would be to gently let the coordinator know this would not be tolerated again and I felt it was out of line. Please advise your thoughts. I am a sincere team player and a good worker who has proved herself on the job. It is time I say no to this person’s harrassment. I have the ability to stand up to this person, but I want to do it right so I do not cause problems for my supervisor who I regard highly and for myself. Thank you for your assistance and you are greatly appreciated.

Signed,

Developing My Strategy


Answer:

Dear Developing My Strategy:

Considering the scenario you described, it seems the best way to have the coordinator get to know you as someone much more likeable than her cousin may have described, is to make it happen through your work over time, rather than having a heart to heart talk about this one workshop and how upset you were. It was probably as much of a challenge for her as for you!

If the coordinator was mean acting and seemed to purposely treat you in a way that anyone would think was rude, that’s one thing. But, if the totality of it was her asking you to contribute but not agreeing with you when you did, that may never happen again. It may also be that she sincerely felt you were in error. Few trainers would purposely give his or her class completely wrong information just to make a guest facilitator look badly.

As for the second facilitator, she likely has been allowed to be problematic for so long that she thinks her behavior is fine. Your supervisor hasn’t done anything about it and neither has anyone else. So, it seems doubtful you will have good results trying to fix a problem that has gone on for years.

If you’re going to talk to her, you will probably have better luck talking about plans to work as a team in the future, then use the recent workshop as an example of how team teaching and having more than one facilitator in a classroom, can be problematic. You could approach it in a colleague to colleague way rather than a corrective way, if you believe that would be more beneficial. If she decided to come to you with ideas for improvement in the future, how would you want her to talk to YOU?

Also consider meeting with your supervisor ahead of time and letting her know your concerns and what you intend to do. I suggest that approach for a couple of reasons. First, it will alert her to a problem that she might want to know about. Second, it will show that you are wanting to solve the problem yourself but that you are aware of her supervisory role. Third, it will allow her to advise you if she thinks the situation should be handled differently than you’re planning. Fourth, if the other person has talked to her already, you will be able to find that out. Fifth, she should certainly be told about the problems with the other coordinator. And sixth, it might remind her that she should be working with the two of you to make sure these things don’t happen.

Your supervisor must surely have realized there might be problems. So, in some ways she is responsible for this breakdown of communication and cooperation between her two facilitators. I can tell you admire her, but you must admit, people issues don’t seemed to have been managed well in her group. Of course, what you do will be based on your good judgment and knowing the overall situation. My cautionary remarks are from the perspective of avoiding a strong push-back over something that, with someone else, you probably would not have felt so offended.

Best wishes as you develop your strategy for this situation. Consider how you would teach it to others and if what you’re planning would be considered a best practice for conflict resolution at this stage.

If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.